I am a woman who looks back on life with very few regrets. Want to know how I did it? The simple answer is I said yes more than I said no. Open up to what life offers you and even if you’re feeling a bit nervous, say yes. When you say yes more than you say no, you have amazing experiences and fewer regrets.
Yes I regret some things I’ve done but the regrets that linger longer are the things I haven’t done. The trips I didn’t take, the concerts I missed, the job I turned down.
When I’ve done something that I regret (the starter marriage in my early 20’s for example), I can still find something valuable in the experience. It taught me what was really important to me in a partner and when it finally ended and I fled to Australia, I learned an immense amount about myself, traveled to a country I’d always wanted to go to and met amazing people who are still friends today.
When I haven’t done something (the exchange trip to France in my last summer of high school for example), I only remember what I missed out on. It has become a regret.
Do what you love when you love it. The other thing I’m learning lately is there is a time and a season for all that we love. You have to follow your passion when you love it because there may come a time when you no longer love it. When I was in my 20’s, I never missed the Vancouver folk festival. It was my soul food and I did whatever it took to get to it. I once drove eight hours on a Friday from a wilderness camp I was working at to get to Vancouver in time for the Friday night concert and left again on the Monday, driving eight hours back to the camp. It was so worth it. I danced to wonderful music under the stars with close friends, saw my hero Ani di Franco perform (and got to have lunch with her backstage because I was a volunteer). After the weekend, I returned to my job with a full heart, energized and ready for the week ahead.
Last year my husband and I took the kids to the Vancouver Folk Festival. We spent most of our time at the Children’s Play Area. I ran in to very few friends. This year we aren’t going. My time with the folk festival has passed. And I don’t mind a bit because I reveled in every minute of it when it was my passion. If I hadn’t made it a priority, I would likely feel some regrets about missing the folk festival now.
It may seem like a little thing – attending a folk festival – but it was a huge priority for me and I chose to be there every year because I knew how happy it made me. That’s what we have to do, think about what feeds our souls and makes us deeply happy and find ways to make it part of our lives. So often we get so busy that it’s difficult to make time for what we love but we must slow down, think about what’s important to us and then prioritize it. Otherwise life becomes a long list of regrets – I wish I’d gone on that date, I wish I’d taken that trip, I wish I’d tried for that promotion, I wish I’d taken that class. We can re-arrange our lives and make time for what we really love. It takes time and thought but it’s worth it to live a life of our own making rather than one that just happens to us.
The few regrets I do have usually entail the things I didn’t do – an amazing job I turned down due to family obligations, a relationship I didn’t start because I couldn’t see how it would work, a trip I didn’t take, a story I never finished writing. Those are the things we wonder about in the years to come.
How about you? How have you found ways to have fewer regrets? What might you look back on someday and regret not doing? How do you choose the way you spend your time? Have you taken time to think deeply about your priorities and what feeds your soul? Next week, I’ll be blogging about how to prioritize what really matters to us and I’d love to hear your thoughts.